Most of the people in my office began their association with the Smithsonian through internships. Once we got here, we fell in love, and found ways to stay.
I had wonderful internships with the Smithsonian: I got to go behind-the-scenes in some of our nation’s greatest museums, I worked on projects that helped tiny corners of the Smithsonian function more smoothly, and I met inspiring professionals in the field I love.
I felt so lucky to have been accepted as an intern at the Smithsonian that I didn’t entirely realize how much the Smithsonian benefits from its interns. Obviously, it’s wonderful to have an extra set of eyes, brains, and hands to do work. But now, as a museum professional myself, I really value the “breath of fresh air” that our new interns have brought to the office. Through their perspectives, I can see my own projects in different ways, and I reevaluate the experiences that have become everyday to me.
For example, take 8:58 to 9:00 in the morning, when I walk from the door of the museum to my office. After working here for only a little while, those minutes have become the last 2 minutes of a routine commute and the last moments before I have to start working. But then I remember that there are new interns in the building, and it isn’t “old” yet for them. It’s still a treat to walk through a closed museum.
One of my colleagues explains this as the difference between get to and have to, and I really enjoy that the interns have brought get to back into my professional vocabulary. I get to publish learning materials online. I get to go to meetings to plan projects.
I’m hoping to get some of our interns to blog during their summer here—posting on “O Say Can You See?” might be one more thing they get to do.
(By the way, it is too late to apply to be an intern this year, but if you’re thinking about joining us next spring or summer, check out our the Smithsonian internship Web site and the National Museum of American History internship site.)
Jenny Wei is an education specialist at the National Museum of American History and is an intern alumna from the Archives of American Art and the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies.